How do I remove all this icky adhesive from my floor?

Q. Is there an easy way to remove this layer of black stuff on my hardwood floor?

A. We often see this problem in kitchen floors. You’ll find a beautiful, original, 1920s maple hardwood floor buried under layers of vinyl or linoleum, plus a nasty layer of linoleum adhesive that has been embedded into the hardwood floor by years of foot traffic.

This can be sanded off, but it is worth trying to mechanically remove most of that glue first, especially if it is a thick layer.  Trust us, if there were a magic potion that removed all linoleum glues with ease, we would sell it to you.

Before you try scraping, our most successful method has been a plain, old-school wallpaper steamer. These can be rented cheaply at any general rental store, but can really loosen that layer of old cutback adhesive quickly.

If that is a bust, there are two other options for dissolving it before you start spending money on chemical strippers:

 

  • Pour a small amount of a cheap laundry detergent onto the old adhesive. Some grease or tar-based adhesives will dissolve or soften in the presence of soap. Again, you will have to scrape and wipe up the now-dissolved inky muck, but it will speed up the process.
  • Pour a 1/4 cup of paint thinner or turpentine directly onto the adhesive and leave it for 10 minutes. Some adhesives will respond to these cheap solvents. Paint thinner fumes are carcinogenenic, so if you decide to flood the whole floor with paint thinner, wear a respirator with organic fume cartridges and keep the windows open.

But sometimes, as in the photo above, just plain scraping turns out to be the best way to remove that adhesive, especially if it is dry and brittle.

Don’t bother removing every last shred of adhesive if you are planning to sand the floor – they make floor sanding abrasive as coarse as 12-grit precisely for situations like this. Keep in mind that, if these cheap solvents don’t work, it is usually cheaper to sand off the adhesive than using a commercial, store-bought adhesive remover on the same area.

Here’s a great example of just trusting 16grit to do the job it was designed to do:

 

 

Pete's Hardwood Floor Help Hotline button
Got your own questions about hardwood flooring problems?

Get a one-on-one phone consultation with a hardwood flooring expert on Pete’s Hardwood Floors Help Hotline. For a small fee, we can provide the wisdom and knowledge that you need to complete your hardwood flooring project. If you’re in the area, visit our cute store in St. Paul, Minnesota.

We promise we’ll do our darndest to help you be the best hardwood floor owner and maintainer that you can be.